Protecting history's treasures

TICONDEROGA, N.Y. (WCAX) Staffers at museums and landmarks across the world looked on in horror as the Notre Dame Cathedral faced something they all fear-- disaster.

Our Kelly O'Brien takes you to Fort Ticonderoga in Northern New York, which houses tens of thousands of treasures from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. She learned how they protect these priceless artifacts from fire damage, water damage and the gradual deterioration of time.

You never want to see a natural disaster happen, but when it comes to preserving historical artifacts the team at Fort Ticonderoga says it's important to have a plan in place.

Fire or floods-- the team at Fort Ticonderoga is ready for anything. They say their emergency plan has the same first step as many other museums and landmarks.

"Evacuation, people come first always," said Miranda Peters, the director of collections.

After everyone is safe, that's when it's time to gather the artifacts. Peters says communication and that safety plan are key.

"Having reflector tape on that box so if the lights are out, first responders coming in can go and grab that box. A huge part of this is documentation," Peters said.

At Fort Ticonderoga, thousands of artifacts that help to paint the picture of the French-built fort that would stand for generations. Whether it be a brush stroke on a painting or a chip in a bell, these artifacts offer a real-life window into what happened hundreds of years ago. In each artifact's file is a long list of its history-- every fix, every fault is detailed.

"Those little moments connect us, I think, in a more powerful way to the people of the past than just words, dates, information. And it's a way we cannot replicate digitally," curator Matthew Keagle said.

To keep the artifacts looking the same year after year takes a village. The team at the fort works with conservators-- who are basically historical scientists-- to determine what and how artifacts should be restored.

"It's incredibly hard because we are fighting against the natural effects of time, everything wears," Keagle said.

Protecting these collections-- this fort-- from wear and tear because they truly are unlike any other.

"We are the stewards of that so that it will be here for future generations, at the very least another century. Really the ethics of our business is for the indeterminate future," Keagle said.

And it's not just museums or historical landmarks that have this safety plan in place. It's people like you, with important things in your life or family heirlooms. Click here for more on how you can set up your own safety plan.